Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tribal War

On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister.  -Genesis 34:25-27

Black Lives do matter, so let’s treat them to some Democracy.

There are a few basic ways that humans can work out their differences.  There is the old tribal way, we see illustrated here.  In this scenario when someone wrongs your tribe, you kill the bastards.  Then they reciprocate and the cycle continues.  The other option is to talk things out.  You establish a system of rules and you take votes and everyone agrees to follow the procedure.  This is democracy.

Christians have always been democratic, since the alternative is forbidden them.  Since the council in Acts, we have been working things out with talking.  Though there have been bloody battles, they were battles for doctrine, Istanbul vs. Rome, Catholic vs. Protestant.  I suppose a denomination is a kind of tribe.  You see Paul condemning this sort of thing from the very early days.(I Corinthians 3:4)  And in large part we have gone beyond this tribalism, agreeing to disagree.  This is the founding of America.  Thirteen Colonial Denominations agreeing that they would rather unite against England than be destroyed.

This is not the case with Muhammedans.  To this day they still believe only in tribalism.  Their false prophet claimed that God told him that their tribe would rule the world, because they were better than all the other tribes.  And they have been trying to prove it for 1400 years.  Sound familiar?  It’s so obviously a hack of the Judeo-Christian religion, it’s not even funny.  And it makes you wonder if tribalism wasn’t one day an improvement.  The story of the Old Testament is the story of God’s chosen tribe and their stewarding of God’s word and the fact that from them would come the Messiah.  But the tribal distinction ends with him. (Matthew 10:34,35)

Which is why it’s sad to see the streets filled with mobs demanding ‘justice’ for their tribe.  They use their shouting and aggressive presence, whatever we let them get away with, to strong-arm their way, instead of talking it out.  Let’s say a police officer killed someone with absolutely no reason, he is a murderer.  We have a system in place to deal with such a person.  An investigation takes place, evidence is gathered and each side get’s to present it’s story before an elected  or appointed judge who acts as referee.  If found guilty he may be subjected to a penalty which the people have all agreed to through their elected representatives.  But these mobs don’t care about facts or justice, they spread propaganda  and lies and try to get these people killed in the court of public opinion.  They destroy people’s lives because it suits their ends, because it’s easier than following the rules of public order.  It’s easier than Democracy.

When you go out on the street and start yelling and demanding your way, you are not for Democracy.  You are a tribal thug attempting force and revenge.  You, a small minority, are saying that the system is not capable of delivering justice.  Despite the fact that it is far superior to every form of tribal justice.  It really is much better than in most times and places.  Yet you come waving your tribal banners.  Now you may think this is what happened in the early days of the United States.  We threw a fit and had a protest and we got our way and everything turned out.  Except that’s not what happened.  This was no tribal dispute.  It was Democracy vs. Democracy.  It was a Constitutional Monarchy trying to assert dictatorial powers over Colonial Democracies.  There were years and years of talking it out, between the crown and the colonies.  But the King broke the rules that everyone had agreed to, so the colonies severed ties with him, with words.  But he didn’t like that, so he sent his soldiers in to invade their homeland.  He was throwing a fit. In the end, our Democracy won.  And we have proved ourselves by maintaining a better order on our own.

This stands in stark contrast to these mobs today.  Where is the proof that these people can govern themselves, much less their communities or counties or states?  They don’t change the process by the rules we have all agreed to. They don’t suggest better rules.  They don’t let the process work.  Of course there are problems, so replace them with more order, with a better rule, as the Founding Fathers did, don’t come with your sticks and stones and your tribal revenge.  You should be better than this.  You were certainly exposed to better.  But when you lose the argument you can accept it or you can throw a fit like a child.  Which only proves you even more wrong.  Occupy  Wall Street wanted to rule the world but they couldn’t even maintain basic sanitation in a city park, costing the responsible adults millions of dollars for their temper tantrum.  If your way is so much better, prove it, leave a remarkable civilization in your wake instead of burning cars and buildings.

 

Cadillac Preaching

The Pastor said that if we become a Christian, it doesn’t mean we drive a Cadillac. But it does mean precisely that. I could buy a Cadillac, the pastor could buy a Cadillac, and most people in the congregation could secure a Cadillac of one form or another. Christianity and Cadillacs are inextricably linked. But I am guessing he was not meaning for us to take him literally, as literally as he takes scripture on occasion. But as a metaphor for wealth, the Cadillac is something which most of Christendom achieves by birth these days. In 1902 when Cadillac was formed from the remnants of Henry Ford’s first company, what we would consider junky old Cadillacs today, would have been unobtainable wealth. Each generation in America dreamed of one day owing such a status symbol, but as time went on they did achieve it. Of course the status symbol also moved to bigger and better things. But today your entry-level Ford can achieve things only the most expensive cars could a few years ago. The average person can buy a safe, reliable car that can go 100 mph. Of course there are a few stipulations to avoid debilitating poverty in the old U. S. of A. You have to finish High School, not have children before you get married, and get a job. Pretty easy, but that gets to the point; behavior has an effect on prosperity.

2011 Cadillac Ciel Concept

2011 Cadillac Ciel Concept

The sin of the Prosperity Gospel is not that they got the promise wrong, but that they applied the recipient individually rather than corporately. God promised he would bless his people, not that every person would always get what they want in every situation. It’s the American way. We Evangelicals almost have no concept of how God deals with his people corporately. We think it’s all about us, or rather me. Us would be an improvement. The other flaw in their understanding is their timetable. They expect it to be almost instant, again this is another fault inherent to Americans these days. But God’s promises take time. Abraham was promised that his descendants would out number the stars(it’s really too bad we think the New Earth will contain so few people, God says we won’t be able to count them)but it took almost 400 years until his people would enter the Promised Land.

We love sci-fi fantasies these days. But we don’t love them because they can take us to truth, we love them because we think they will allow us to escape from reality. We don’t want promises from God that require hard work and generations of faithfulness. 400 YEARS!? Who has the time? It would be much easier if God just swooped down and waved a magic want, cross shaped perhaps, and made everything right, sent us to rapture. But that’s just not what Scripture says. The blessings of God are not just theoretical or metaphysical.

God promised his people the land, but they had to fight for it, many people died fighting for it. They never saw the land, for them, where was the blessing? The blessing was for their children, and it was very real(twhink Oblivion or the Prestige). They really did get the land, most of it. It would have been easy for them to just give up and start saying that the promises were talking about a spiritual reality and not actual land. Which is not far from the truth. As Jesus found his people when he came to the earth; they were so delusional as to not even realize they were enslaved to the Romans(John 8:33). Because on some spiritual level they were better than any Romans. Jesus rebuked there theoretical dream world. And told them to take care of the actual poor, to actually be good people, to actually do good works, rather than just talking about it in theory. The way you behave on this real earth displays what is truly in your heart. You can’t just say you are a child of Abraham, you can’t just say you are a Christian, you have to prove it (John 8:39).

“What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” -Mark 11:24

And he told us what to pray for, what we should desire.

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13

When was the last time you heard about a famine? How many people do you know who have had a problem with demon possession? Have you seen a time with more forgiveness? We even forgive murderers when we have their crime on six videos. I would argue that his will is being done on earth at a level never before seen. God didn’t put us on this earth to fall, but to rule and subdue it, to turn the garden into a city. And we have done, in ways totally unimaginable to the disciples of Jesus. Of course it’s not all perfect. But insofar as these things are not happening, it is our fault, the fault of the Church.

Many of these things probably sound strange to us, Evangelicals. We find comfort waiting for the rapture, thinking our only task is to ‘get people saved’. I was raised this way and followed it a little too closely, to my own detriment But this task is meant to be added to our other tasks. Just because Jesus tells us he is the Bread of Life doesn’t mean we stop growing wheat. God works out his promises here on earth by human agents the way he always has.

Christendom is the wealthiest thing going, it always has been. Of course there were ups and downs, but Rome was blown away by this community of people who could actually accomplish even their pagan ideals of citizenship and community. There are always lies told about Christians, because we play by the rules and are blessed by it, this leads to jealousy. But we shouldn’t throw in with the world criticizing our place here, because we think the persecution means we are closer to the early church. The gospel was to be preached to everyone, the Kingdom spread to every tongue and tribe and nation. We mistake exhortations to resist Roman persecution as proverbs for all times and peoples. Do you really think things are getting worse? You need to talk to your grandparents. Or perhaps they should give you a talking too. And it’s not just about you and your problems or even the past generations, look at the bigger picture.

What about ‘Christian’ South America? Of course there is no shortage of people claiming Christ, and not living it. The Catholic Church has a real problem with syncretism. Jesus says you will know them by their fruit. The fruit is real, the lack of fruit is real too. God created this world and gives us the rules because they are in harmony with the world he created. Don’t have sex with animals, because that’s where STD’s come from. Love one another, and be at peace and you can spend your efforts on things besides making IED’s, like going to the Moon. And so you can identify true Christianity by it’s fruit, on a large scale over an extended time. South American Catholicism doesn’t work. Neither does the Middle Eastern heresy of Muhammed. The interesting thing about Christianity is that Christ affected everything. Judaism was never the same after Christ appeared on the scene. Then he came back and wiped out the temple a few years later. Satan’s counterfeits were never the same, there have since been many anti-Christs. Muhammed admired the organizing ability of the Church and he wanted to use it much like Simon (Acts 8:9-24) so he mixed Christianity with his tribal Arab culture. This layer of Christian-proofing has resulted in a many very dark lands all but impenetrable by the light of the Gospel. But most of the Muslims I have met are themselves trying to live up to the Christian ideal. It has become standard in world politics and culture. Everyone wants to be like the west, except for a few who want to destroy it, even they indulge in it’s bounty. The West is the West because of all our ancestors who took the promises of Christ seriously. They lived a moral life, and used their leisure to explore and invent and discuss and think. And so now men can move mountains. Christ moved the temple mount into the valley of Gehenna, but we can move actual mountains, just drive over to Butte. We can also bring about his will on earth as it is in heaven. Every day, one decision at a time.

The problem with always comparing us to Rome is that Rome was not Christian. Christians may die but they come back from the dead. Christ conquered death. Rome was conquered, and was raised to newness of life under Christ. His Body the Church has been raising paganism and converting it to this day. If we continue to sit around and wait for something to happen while our nation continues to throw away it’s heritage an dembrace the darkness it will die, to be reborn. But it seems like an awful waste. I would rather we go on building. There are Cadillacs because there are Christians. Cadillacs are Christian. And I say keep them coming.

Social Extremes

I see a lot of my fellow men struggling with their public persona, or perhaps it is more accurate to say women. From the lesser to the greater problems of self-consciousness seem to multiply with your audience. Some people are very comfortable with themselves and so as they are in front of more people they adapt, and are fine with it. Other people are always second guessing themselves and so the more eyes on them the more they doubt themselves. I have see this manifest itself in a few ways. Some people are always trying to prove they are better than they are, others are always trying to prove they are worse.

Even more true since our failed educational system gave us Obama and Obama  liberated us from gainful employment.

Even more true since our failed educational system gave us Obama and Obama liberated millions from gainful employment.

I can understand people trying to prove they are better than they are, it’s the pride of humanity, perhaps the most common and most vile of sins. But it seems odd that you would want to prove you are worse. I think it’s fair to say that, even though it seems odd it is the other side of the same coin. Making more of yourself or making less of yourself are really the same, you are making the self the focus and misrepresenting yourself. True humility is when you see yourself as you truly are. Be real. But what is real? I think it depends on who your god is. If your god is yourself, then anything you do or feel is by definition, real, true and good. If your god is other people, you are always taking Fb polls and trying to determining your worth for the day based on the number of likes your last selfie received. Or if you are a male, the pictures are of your latest project. There are many gods, but the solution to all of this mess is to make Jesus your Lord. If you hold yourself up to his character and honestly compare, you will probably find some flaws in yourself. Flaws that are preventing you from being fully human, by the true objective standard.

Now, that second god is a common demon these days. I have heard marketing described as trying to make the public perception meet the reality. But I think more often than not the purpose is to present the reality as something other than it really is. And today we each seem to be running our own marketing campaign, it’s called social media. But don’t let anyone find out, or realize the glimmer is off the rose. I just find it really odd that in an age of ‘don’t judge’ that’s all we do. We nit pick grammar, and every little fault of every public figure. Our entire press is geared towards destroying people who have risen by real merit. We are dying to believe that everything good is fake. Does that include God? I think it exempts us from our responsibilities, even our responsibilities as created creatures of that God.
On a larger scale western civilization has gone from extreme to extreme. From the rigid structure of Neo Classicism to the rule by emotion of Romanticism, to the reigning in of immorality that was Victorianism. But since our current conception of history is so narrow, these reaction are often happening yearly, monthly or even daily. We can’t leave well enough alone and stay in the middle with truth, because we don’t want to have anything to do with the Lord God of the Universe who made all of this. We want to try it our own way. Were the ‘solution’ to the last problem we created is the next overreaction. I still maintain that as a whole we are moving towards that which is more and more casual. If it’s spur-of-the-moment, with absolutely no planning or forethought, then it must be good, art even. Except for running half marathons. In which case, you can’t plan too much. And so you see people reacting and overreacting. We are bipolar.

There is an alternative. Instead of trying to earn the praise of our many gods, by works, which is always the way, find what is good, true, and beautiful, based on the real source, the One True God, and love it. Take that trip to that exotic location and post a million beautiful pictures because you really loved it, instead of trying to keep up with someone who travels more. Maybe you will inspire someone else to take a trip that they will love too. That’s good peer pressure, that’s good marketing. It’s selling something bigger than ourselves. And if something is difficult, don’t be afraid to share and reach out to others for support. Instead of worrying that your profile is too glamorous and in need of something ‘real’ or ‘down and dirty’. As your fellow Christians reach out to encourage you, they too will be encouraged in their own trials.

There is a time for all things. A time to mourn and a time to dance(Ecclesiastes 3). I’m not sure if this new push for the casual is laziness or a philosophical overreaction to too much structure, but it’s not good. There have always been glosses, to cover pimples or sins. There was airbrushing before Photoshop. It’s fine for a woman to put on some make-up, so long as she is not coving a prideful heart. You don’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s good to put on your sunday best as long as there is a soul underneath. There are vessels for honor and vessels for dishonor. There are body parts for public consumption and those which are kept hidden. Letting it all hang out is shocking at first, but very soon you are left with nothing being sacred, nothing is special. No parts are for anything, we are just left in a soup of Eastern Mysticism, where everything is one. The only problem is that then everything is nothing. Without distinct things, you have no relationships, no contrasts, no paradox. Even rebellion is nothing, it has nothing to be contrary to. We understand this a little, I often see people taking endless pictures of every laden plate before they eat, but I don’t often see the after pictures. Come on, what happened to keeping it real? Now maybe this is the future, but I hope not.  I envision a future which looks a lot like the medieval past.  Where discipline is considered real.  Where we can all work towards a standard that is better than ourselves, without being called fake.

So post your food if you love it. But don’t show off. And don’t be afraid of gloss. Post pictures of those beautiful, happy family moments. Clean the house before guests come over. Keep some things hidden, off scene(obscene). If you tell a good story and people can only find jealousy in their hearts, that’s their problem. If people are offended by that which is true, that’s their problem. Don’t be afraid to be what you were made to be in Jesus the Christ, even if it means being better or worse than others.

Further up and Further In:  http://www.canonwired.com/featured/1894/

Gentleness

What if you find yourself driving down the street and someone pulls out in front of you and cuts you off? If you get upset and yell at him or honk, most likely that is sin. At the very least it’s un-Christian. It is not you laying down your life for another it is you demanding your rights. You have been slighted and you think you deserve better. The fruit of the Spirit response, in this case, would be considerate, self-controlled, patient, understanding. It is to consider his position, maybe he is late picking up his daughter and he doesn’t want to leave her out in the cold. It is letting things go even if he had no good reason for doing it.

clark w grisNow consider if the same guy pulls out in front of a small child crossing the street. And you yell something very similar to the first example. Is this sin? Is this un-Christian? I don’t think so. Though the man probably heard you the same in both examples, he was probably upset in both instances, the were different. You were standing up for the less fortunate. You were making a stand on principle, that the man needed correction. Not because of how it impacted you, or because you were demanding something but because you loved this child that was put in danger. The consequences of you not speaking up, or no one ever speaking up might be the death of someone in the future. Real love would not let this happen.

Now make it a little less emotional. You see the man pull out in front of another car and you yell. I believe the same thing applies. Now let’s say you are back in the first instance, and you yell but without any concern for yourself. You don’t care that you have been wronged, but you believe the man needs correction or he is going to endanger himself or others. I believe this too can be perfectly Christian. But it may not look like it. People will often assign you motives based on how they would behave. It’s an interesting thing, people may condemn you because you are worse than they are, but they may also condemn you for being better, because they can’t imagine how that’s possible.

This was exactly the case with Jesus and his disciples and many Christians throughout time. The Jews persecuted the Christians because they thought they were preaching a false Messiah. They thought they were blaspheming the one true God. But really the problem was that they were unable to understand a higher truth, a better motive.

So we shouldn’t really evaluate ourselves based on how people react. Of course they will hate us they hated Jesus and we follow him. We should try to fairly assess our own motives, but don’t get too caught up in it. Generally you know if you yelled from anger. But don’t overthink your motives, or let other people do it to you. You will soon be paralyzed with fear which is a fair characterization of the church these days.

And this is the point. We have taken verses like Philippians 4:5 and turned them into a call to be a wimp, to give in at every turn, sooner if possible. I could only find one translation that used the word ‘gentle’, the rest use something like moderation, reasonableness, or consideration. Given the context where Paul is exhorting someone to moderate a conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, I think those are getting more to the point. As Christians we are exhorted repeatedly to ‘Judge rightly’ “discern” and many other such phrases. We should be good at deciphering good from evil in every situation. We have the wisdom of God. This is precisely what preaching about being a wimp leaves out. These specific situations were given to us to help us in our situations, in our judging. Instead they are turned into warm fuzzy quotes fit for embroidery over the toilet at grandmas. Paul’s exhortations to gentleness and self control are not about acting like good little Victorians, they are about ending conflict by dropping things. They are about sacrificing yourself, as Christ did.

If we look at the word gentleness. It comes from gentleman, which was a political class in England. It was a few steps below royalty. This too is a good context, Christians are told that we are heirs with Christ, we will inherit the earth. We are royalty, we should act like it. Jesus the King is our Father. How do royalty behave? There is a time for quiet reasoned speech. There is also a time for yelling and fighting. Those who are reasonable and good moderators are equipped to judge the time and place for each. Sometimes Jesus was moved with compassion, he spoke gently and healed people. Other times he yelled at the Pharisees with the most vile of insults and chased them away with whips. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you don’t fight, it means you don’t fight for yourself. When other people or the credibility of your Lord is on the line, you fight. The Jews were not wrong in their method of stopping blasphemy. They were wrong in their identification of what blasphemy was. Oh that Christians today would take the commands of God as seriously as they did. People who don’t act on what they believe, are cowards. The other option is that you have cowardice embedded in your beliefs. Neither of these options is the way of the Christian.

John the Baptist was beheaded for telling the regent of Judah that he had no right to marry his brother’s wife. He didn’t preach some generalization, or make suggestions, he said it right to Herod’s face. We have much the same situation today. Herod claimed to be a faithful Jew, vying for the place of Messiahship. Our political leaders claim to be Christians. Both blaspheme the name of the One True God. But our pastors don’t stand up. They don’t defend the sheep with their staffs, with the Word. Instead they teach the sheep to cower. “They are just the world, acting like the world.” Well that’s because you didn’t teach them how to act like Christians. If you can’t even teach your own people how to stand up and fight the world, how will we ever be light to the world? In a sense our cowardice is fighting, it’s fighting for our own hide. John didn’t worry about his own life, he spoke the word faithfully. And God took care of Herod. He lived in fear and was eventually devoured by worms.(Mark 6)

The founders of the United States brought with them the Geneva Bible, handed down from Calvin with his notes. Including notes about the doctrine of lesser magistrates. In Exodus 1 the Hebrew midwives are praised for fearing God rather than Pharaoh. They disobeyed the government, Pharoah, and obeyed God. Calvin’s notes made it clear that lower authorities had the right to call higher authorities to account if they overstepped their authority, became tyrants. Not only did they have a right to resist false authority, but they had a responsibility to intervene. If the sheep underneath you are being abused by the wolves, you have a duty to fight the wolves, even if the wolves have titles like ‘king’ or ‘president’. But tyrants don’t like this sort of thing. They want to be their own masters, they want to be above any rule or law, they want to be God. And so the homosexualist King James, made sure that these notes were absent from his new translation. And so many tyrants to this day preach this passive gentleness from Romans 13, which has been stripped of all context and turned into “sit down and shut up, and do whatever the government says.” Because that’s the power they covet for themselves. It’s no surprise that the founders stood up against the tyranny of George III. It’s also no surprise that our culture is off the rails today, as we all cower in fear. We hand our children less freedom every generation, less Gospel, less of the Kingdom. Is that loving? We are fools. We think the darkness we have created is a sign that Christ is returning. Really it a sign of the retreat of his Body, the Church here on earth.

So, when your wife attacks you, be gentle and understanding with her, forget yourself, repent and ask forgiveness. When someone attacks your wife, forget yourself and dive in to the fight whether by words or weapons. Both are gentlemanly, both are loving, both are Christian.

Theological Superiority

Today in church I learned that the goal of life is to get saved and wait for Jesus to come back. I could pray that it happens a little too, if I decide. And while I wait I should bash other people for their theology on matters of end times, that don’t really matter. So, that’s what I am going to do, but also point out some more important lessons we should be learning in church.

So, I am already saved. I was baptized by someone who was baptized by someone who was baptized by someone. . . you get the point. This is how the new covenant works, water is thicker than blood, the water of baptism. Wine is thicker than blood, the wine of the Lord’s Supper. This is not an ethnic thing. Which makes me wonder about the Jews today, who are supposedly an ethnic thing. How do they know. The common thread of Christendom is fairly obvious today. There were the early church fathers, and many splits, but though the tree has many branches there is one root, one foundation. Jesus the Christ and his apostles. How do Jews today know they are Jews? The records are all gone, there are no more Matthew 1 type genealogies. Which tribe are you from? No one knows. All they have to go on is that their parents were Jews, or maybe they can even trace back a few generations. But like the Church, today their connection is purely ritualistic or cultural. There is no proof of the ethnic part. I suppose we could do DNA research, but I doubt that will help us to determine which tribe is which, a key and necessary part of tribal, ethnic distinctions.

So, I’m in the right club, check. I occasionally pray the Lord’s Prayer, especially when I am visiting Presbyterian churches so, check again. Now onto bashing other people’s theology. I was raised in the same church I currently attend. I know what they believe I have heard it my whole life.  I understand Dispensationalism. Lobbing grenades from a fortress is fine in tribal warfare, but someone honestly attempting to understand another perspective has to try a different tactic. If you want to have an honest debate with different ideas, you need to understand the ideas. It’s easy to make absurd categorical statements about someone who disagrees with you, it’s difficult to truly understand what makes them tick. This requires hard work, imagination and humility. We all think we are right, that’s what having an idea means. If it’s wrong we throw it out. Ideas are in people and people are in contexts, always. That’s just how it works. And it’s not just something you do in philosophy, it applies to how you read the Bible. These people lived in a different time and different place with different evils. Their arguments and actions were not written to us, in order to learn from them we must translate their actions into our own time. Otherwise we just end up with a mess. Fortunately the tradition of the Church has made this work easier than other areas of study. They have been translating and commenting on scripture these 2000 years and passing it on. As opposed to some other texts we dig up, like some of the Dead Sea scrolls. We have to guess at their meaning because we are separated hundreds of years from the last comments about them. We don’t know why they wrote these things or why these issues were important the way we do with the canon of Scripture. We just have to guess.

On the other hand, if we can’t even honestly understand what people across town are preaching from their pulpits, how do we think we have the right to understand scripture? Especially given the nature of the New Covenant. It was to expand. It was for all tongues and tribes and nations. Like with all honest inquiry, don’t just take someone’s word for it, read what these people actually write, listen to what they say, get to know them. Honestly try to figure out their context and what they are trying to do. I have done this with many other faith traditions, Catholics, Covenant Theologians or Anglicans, current and past. And I must say our fortress mentality looks more ridiculous every day.

As to our text in Mark 13. People don’t just think these events happened in A.D. 70 because they are stupid. They believe it because verse 30 says “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” In addition many of them follow the tradition passed down from the Apostles more faithfully than we dispensationalists do. Most of our forefathers believed that the Church was the new Israel, the people of God on this earth, including the Apostles in Acts. Which is why there was so much early controversy about whether or not you had to become a Jew first in order to be a Christian. We see it in Acts, Galatians and Hebrews.

Understanding a text or an idea requires not only that you know something about the speaker, but about yourselves. If you find yourself hating black people, because that’s what you have always done, and what your parents have always done, you might just think that’s how it is. But if you look down and observe you are wearing a Nazi uniform, and realize that not everyone wears that uniform, past or present, if you consider what that means, you can begin to see that hating black people is part of your bias. In fact it’s a new thing that no one really thought about much before Darwin told the world that white people evolved from black people. We American Evangelical Christians in 2015 have many biases. The most stark bias is against anything old. We think anything new must be better and so it’s how we treat Mark, we throw out the old covenant theology for the new dispensationalism. We also have a big disadvantage with every non-modern text. We can’t relate. Poetry is almost gone in our culture. We treat every text as if it were a scientific treatise. This is not how pre-moderns wrote at all.

When Revelation says that the blood flowed as high as the horses bridles, we get out our meter sticks (even yard sticks are too archaic, a true modern uses the metric system). We measure and if the blood is a few millimeters short we move on and look for fulfillment somewhere else. The author of Revelation would laugh in our face, or cry. We have missed the point, the meaning.

I have already given an overview of what is happening here but what about the language used in these verses:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Mark 13:24-27

Now look down at your modern uniform and realize that you have many biases. You think this means that some astronomical event must come. You look of the Greek words and try to figure out how many stars have to fall to fulfill this prophecy. Did that meteor shower last week qualify? Then you use the terms as technical terms to cross reference with other verses, especially in Revelation. That’s the juicy stuff.

But pre-moderns would see this as a painting with words. When do you see sun moon and stars previously in scripture? It sounds like Genesis to me, when the sun moon and stars are put in the heavens. Now they fall. This is the end of the world. But it doesn’t even have to be the whole actual, physical world. The context is the destruction of the temple of Israel. This is the end of the Jewish age, which was the end of the world to the Jews. Then we see the Son of Man, Jesus coming in glory. We are told that woman is the glory of man(I Corinthians 11:7). The Church is the bride of Christ, we are his glory.(Ephesians 5:25-27) The cloud is a symbol of his presence just like the cloud that descended on the temple.(Exodus 33:9, Exodus 40:34, Acts 2) Now the cloud descends on the new temple, our bodies. We are the Church, the body of Christ. This is Kingdom talk.(Mark 1:15) It’s happening now. It’s not complete but it’s happening. So the Body sends out angels, or messengers (though we like the word ‘angels’ instead, it’s much more Frank Peretti), to reap the harvest. This sounds like the same harvest Jesus sent his Disciples out to gather. The elect from every tongue, tribe and nation, Matthew 24:29-30 includes the tribe language also in chapter 28’s great comission.
We love to allegorize this stuff and turn it into a fantastic miraculous sci-fi drama. But really God uses human agents the way he always has. First he sent Jesus his son to the vineyard to collect the worship due him. They killed him.(Matthew 21.33-46) So in these verses, he uses Rome to judge Israel, not one stone remained on another. But that’s not the end, he comes in power, through us, through the Church. We have been conquering every tongue and tribe and nation to this day. The whole world has seen the return of the King, through us. There are still a few enclaves left, shining the light there is our mission. We don’t just wait for his will on earth as it is in heaven, we do it, we advocate for it. We build a world free from sin and death, starting with our own lives. We act like children of the king, blameless, yet battling the evil of this world. While we should beware of false doctrine, we should keep in mind who are real enemy is. Anyone who blasphemes the name of Jesus. Anyone refusing to submit to his commands and the blessings they bring.

The purpose of Romans 11 isn’t that we should sit around and wait for Jesus to do something with Israel. The point is that Israel was saved because from them came Jesus. They were punished for their rejection, but saved by the fact that Jesus and his disciples redeemed the whole world. Even in their rebellion they are a blessing because they are a warning to us.  The point is that we shouldn’t get lazy, because God can just as soon cut the Gentiles out and put the Jews back in. It’s not a fatalistic prophecy, that will happen regardless of what we do. We are not Muhammedans. We are like a new Israel, we are a people set apart for God. If we abuse our task, we will be judged. But our task is not to be set apart, with our superior theology, lobbing grenades. Our task is to get everyone into the Kingdom. And because this truth is so glorious, Paul breaks out in song. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” He doesn’t write a boring book of exegetical theology, he writes a book of exhortation and praise.

So burn your straw men, and get to the real work of actively bringing the Kingdom to the whole earth, by living a perfect sinless life as an example for those who are not in the club. Fight by praising his many works, despite the world around blaming him and us for every evil.  They learned to blame and point fingers from us, the mighty Bible Believing Christians.  But don’t just be Bible believers, be Bible doers.

 

Crime of Passion

It seems to me that Western Civilization has always distinguished premeditated murder form spur of the moment murder.  I think this is a good instinct.  A forgiving person let’s things go.  He forgives 70×7 times.  He treats every meeting with his brothers as if it were the first.  He doesn’t dwell on those wrongs, rolling them over and over in his mind.  The old fashioned term is stewing.  He gives the person a fresh start at every crossing.

In contrast a crime of passion is momentary anger flaring.  While we should strive to control our temper, this is quite a different thing.  It’s almost a form of accident. Rather than conniving and formulating small nothings into a great evil, it springs upon you suddenly.  It seems that it generally requires larger provocations.  While I’m sure there are crimes of passion involving little more than a printer which ran out of toner, generally what comes to mind is coming home early from work to find your wife in bed with the pool boy.  In that situation it’s only normal that you throw him out the window.  Whether or not he hits the pool or not, is a matter of chance.

 

La Madonna

I occasionally find myself enraptured by the fine arts, in particular static visual art.  I suppose the brush strokes and the minutia are like the dates in the study of history, they are necessary fundamentals, but they are not the point.  Ovid said the purpose of art was to conceal itself, the important thing is the meaning. Like the themes of literature visual themes can convey rich meaning to our soul.  Like the subterfuge of fantasy, painting can smuggle truth into our minds(which Lewis said of fairy stories).
La Charite, William Adolphene Bouguereau.   charity (n.) mid-12c., "benevolence for the poor," from Old French charité "(Christian) charity, mercy, compassion; alms; charitable foundation" (12c., Old North French carité), from Latin caritatem (nominative caritas) "costliness, esteem, affection" (in Vulgate often used as translation of Greek agape "love" -- especially Christian love of fellow man -- perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of Latin amor), from carus "dear, valued," from PIE *karo-, from root *ka- "to like, desire" (see whore (n.)).

La Charite, William Adolphene Bouguereau.
charity (n.) mid-12c., “benevolence for the poor,” from Old French charité “(Christian) charity, mercy, compassion; alms; charitable foundation” (12c., Old North French carité), from Latin caritatem (nominative caritas) “costliness, esteem, affection” (in Vulgate often used as translation of Greek agape “love” — especially Christian love of fellow man — perhaps to avoid the sexual suggestion of Latin amor), from carus “dear, valued,” from PIE *karo-, from root *ka- “to like, desire” (see whore (n.)).

I fear that modernism has killed our appreciation of many things, including art.  This is true of one of my favorite artists.  He went unappreciated for decades, even in the 1980’s his pieces could be had for a few thousand dollars, because he held onto the old ways while modern art marched across Western Civilization like the jackboots of the Nazis.  The same thing that they did to literature with criticism by experts and deconstruction, they did to art, to the detriment of all.  This is one of my favorite paintings by that artist, La Charité by Bouguereau.  Each child is a theme, a depiction of one aspect of charity, as exemplified by a mother, the ultimate giver.  Attention, sustenance, comfort, shelter, education.  And the theme of the vessel of money poured out haphazardly for her children.  Women are always a picture, the glory of man.  They depict the care of husbands, or fathers.  The work of their hands is made manifest in her eyes.  Just as the Church on this earth is the glory of Christ, we are his bride.  He pulled us from the mud, he took on all our past hurts, all our past abusive relationships and he made us beautiful(Ezekiel 16).  We are his image.  He always made the women he was amongst more beautiful.

We evangelicals tend to make a wide birth around Catholics, especially the idea of Mary.  But if you understand paintings like this, which are not overtly religious you can take what you learn back to the multitude of Madonna paintings and appreciate them a bit more.  We see many of the themes he depicts here in those Madonnas.  It makes you marvel that the second person of the Godhead, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, humbled himself to the utmost fragile state, to the care of a woman. In addition, we can echo with Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear.”(Luke 1:42)  We see also Christ mourning over his city, Jerusalem, which had become Babylon. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing”(Luke 13:34,35)
So while you don’t have to be an expert, and I’m not even sure anyone should, we should all appreciate what Christendom has done for art before modern man began his vivisection.
Another fine Bouguereau painting.  When a Bob Jones legalist, criticized his work for it's nudity.  Bouguereau lamented that they had missed the point. He had thought that he captured the expressions so well.  The painting was not about nudity, it was about spring.

Another fine Bouguereau painting. When a Bob Jonesian legalist, criticized his work for it’s nudity. Bouguereau lamented that they had missed the point. He had thought that he captured the expressions so well. The painting was not about nudity, it was about spring.

 

Broken Communion

She was probably about two, a bundle of energy though respectfully contained in her Sunday best. A puffy black dress which complimented her cheeks, decorated with ribbons from head to toe. When she was unable to solicit the attention of someone else around her, she was in her own little world, content, laughing and playing. Then what was this? Something is happening. Men are walking around with shiny trays. Oh, I had better pay attention. Oh one is coming my way, it’s full of small crackers. Oh goodie. But just then grandma brushes me off and grabs the plate away from my view. Something is going on, and I’m missing out. Was I bad? Am I going to be in trouble when we get home? Then grandma whispers something in my ear about how it’s not for me. Why not? Then everyone seems to be eating together. A few minutes later, the men come again, this time with little cups. Again it’s not for me. The joy is gone. But it’s ok, soon I will be whisked off to my own world to color and play, junior church I think they call it.

How sad, I was crushed. But this is the message we send to our kids every month as we participate in communion with, or should I say without them. They are not in the fellowship. They are not in the group. They have to wait outside while the grown-ups go through their motions. Just then I remembered the words of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me.” We think we are all important, that our inclusion in the Church, the people of God is an adult thing. Children don’t know anything, they can’t participate or contribute on the same level as an adult so just forget about them. Until that one magical day when they reach the ‘age of accountability’ and can chose salvation for themselves. But this is not the picture Scripture paints. We are fallen, sinful, dead. We don’t go up to heaven or even reach up, and make fellowship with God. We are going about in our selfishness and He comes down to Earth for us. We don’t do anything, it’s by his grace. Yet we push our children to the outskirts of the body, always treating them as circumspect. “I wonder if little Lucy is really saved. . .” “I don’t know let’s test her. . .” No! “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Sinite parvulos venire ad Me ('Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me') Frans Francken II.  c. 1640

Sinite parvulos venire ad Me (‘Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me’) Frans Francken II. c. 1640

But we like to pride ourselves for our decision to choose Christ and it impacts how we view our children. We think we made some sort of reasoned decision at church camp, that one night. Or perhaps it was in our twenties when we found ourselves at the bottom of the gutter, we made the choice to pick ourselves up and turn our lives around. But we forget that the gutter is our natural state. Or even worse, a people at it’s worst isn’t mixing up concrete and building gutters, without the hand of God we are cavemen. It was the hand of God, at the behest of his son Jesus, who reached down and pulled us out of that gutter. We evangelicals love a good turn around story. And those can be real. God does often work that way. But an even better pattern is for the next generation. He saves millions by placing them in Christian households and sparing them the pain and anguish of that sordid gutter lifestyle.

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Romans 4:13-16

We used to look ahead in this country. Political debates were often couched in terminology about the children and the future. Even those have mostly blown away by the evil wind sweeping our nation, the same wind aborting millions of those children, aborting our future. At the beginning men laid down their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor so that generations and generations could go ahead of them and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Today we sacrifice our children for our own momentary pleasure. Today we stare at our own feet, we can’t even pass on the basics of our faith to our own children. Something which almost no other culture has ever had trouble doing, we can’t manage. The Jews didn’t teach their children to form a council every generation and decide if they were going to be Jews for another round. God told them to “train their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”, oh wait that’s from the New Testament. The Old Testament says to “train a child up in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” God says “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” But what if they didn’t make the right decision at the campfire that night? Paul tells us we are part of that covenant, we were grafted into Israel, we are children of Abraham. But we are also under a New and glorious covenant. Do you think this applies any less to us? The purpose of the New Covenant was not to exclude our children if they didn’t make a decision, it was to graft in all the nations to the tree of Abraham. It was to expand the Old Covenant to every tongue and tribe and nation.

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:27-31

I think we can learn a lot from having those children at the table, rather than whisking them away to feed their infancy, let them learn to sit still and be part of this body. But we can learn from them as well. (It’s another wonderful paradox. Male vs. female, old vs. young. We like to be in groups of people just like ourselves, but the magic happens when we join the two sides of the paradox in tension.) That joy on her face, before it was taken away, that’s how we should view the Lord’s table. It’s not a mechanical requirement, it’s a blessed gift. The King of the Universe, Jesus the Christ has invited us to celebrate with him at his table. Regardless of how the battle looks outside, down here on earth, we know in reality it’s over. Jesus won. He conquered death, the final enemy. The Kingdom of God is at hand. And he asked us to celebrate at his table. He doesn’t lord it over us until we make a decision. Who are we to deny our children? Because they can’t make a decision? You are the parent, make it for them, choose life. Reach down to them as Jesus did and bring them up to your level. Lay down your life for them. Treat them like they are part of the party, offer them the bread and wine. Train them up in the joy of the Lord, so it’s all they ever know, so they wouldn’t think of ‘choosing’ anything else. Why is the default position to treat them like an enemy? Even the Matrix gets this right. Adults have to make a choice, the red pill or the blue pill. But after you choose freedom, and leave the Matrix, your children are born in Zion. They are freeborn children of Zion, they can’t choose to go back into the Matrix, that’s crazy talk. So, why do we pretend that we are facilitating some sort of neutral territory on which our children can decide if they want to go over to the dark side or not? It’s really insane. Especially given the history of it not working, at all. Our kids have enough against them, God already made a world where evil can look as enticing as good, we don’t need to be on the wrong side fighting against them.

Supper in Emmaus. Paolo Veronese. c.1559

Supper in Emmaus. Paolo Veronese. c.1559

Historically Christians treated their children as Christians. Just like how Jews treated their children as Jews, Americans treat their kids as Americans, and the Smiths treat their children as Smiths. That’s just common sense. You don’t choose your country or your gender or your family. But we are fine with our Children choosing inhumanity, being connected back into the Matrix, because it preserves our notion of free will. And so we have sacrificed our children on this alter for the past few generations. We perpetuate the insane idea that every generation rebells, it’s just how it is, so go with it. We will cast out some nets and see if we can’t catch a few as they wash down the gutter into the sewer. They might have some sensational conversion stories. Well that is one way to reproduce. But it doesn’t make much sense, and it betrays that we worship James Dean and Steve McQueen, and not Jesus the Messiah.